The week in history: Conscription rejected
On October 28, 1916, a referendum was held to decide whether Australia should introduce conscription to aid Britain in its war with Germany. The Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes had visited Britain in 1916 and was an enthusiastic supporter of conscription. However, many others in the ALP and the trade unions were bitterly opposed to conscription, and the proposal to introduce a military draft was defeated in the referendum.
Hughes was subsequently expelled from the ALP, but managed to form a minority government with the aid of his pro-war colleagues and in 1917 he helped form the new Nationalist Party which won a majority in the federal election of that year. Another referendum on conscription was held in 1917, but again the voters rejected the proposal.
From Green Left Weekly, October 26, 2005.
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